NAIROBI, September 18 – Boniface Mweresa declared the presence of Botswana Stars, Nijel Amos and Isaac Makwala inspired them to victory in the men’s 4X400m when the African Games track and field concluded on Thursday in Congo Brazzaville for the country’s sixth top medal.
The Kenyan quartet of Mweresa, 2013 World Youth bronze medallist, Alex Sampao, Raymond Kibet and Kiprono Koskei stormed to a championship record of 3:00.34 ahead of Botswana and Algeria as the country’s sprinters stamped their mark on the quadrennial Pan African showpiece that concludes Friday.
“We didn’t expect to set a new championship course record because Amos and Makwala were the men to beat but the rest of the team, we were on the same level but the two were threats,” Mweresa, who won silver in the men’s 400m behind African record-holder, Makwala at the same event stated.
With Kenya respected in middle and long distances, the 4x400m win that came three weeks after Nicholas Bett’s surprise gold in the Beijing World Championships men’s 400m Hurdles are signs the country is making inroads over short distances that were a domain for West African nations.
The jaw-dropping time saw them erase the 28-year old record of 3:00.55, which incidentally, was set by Nigeria in Nairobi when the country hosted the fourth edition at the just newly built Kasarani Stadium in 1987.
Kibet, Sampao, Koskei and Mweresa were too strong for Botswana, which had newly crowned 400m champion, Makwala running the anchor leg but despite that, they could only settle for silver in a national record of 3:00.95.
After a slow start, Botswana jumped into the lead after a fantastic run by Commonwealth Games 800m champion Amos on the second leg, but the lead soon disappeared as Koskei chased down Leaname Maotoanong at the hands off.
The Beijing Worlds finalist tried to leave it until much later in the race, before attempting to coast home to victory but Kenya’s anchor, Mweresa gave him no breathing space, charging down the finishing line to take gold.
Algeria’s Abdelmalik Lahoulou who won the 400m Hurdles on Wednesday, used his wealth of experience to secure Bronze for his country, finishing ahead of Nigeria.
In the men’s 5000m, 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist, Thomas Longosiwa was beaten to third by Ethiopians Getaneh Molla and Leulsi Gebresilase but the 33-year-old was happy having completed the podium finish.
“It’s good I was able to finish the race because it was challenging for me since I’m coming from injury I picked mid season. After the muscle pull, I missed to make the team for World Championships but I’m happy my Government gave me these opportunity,” Longosiwa, said after the gruelling 12 and a half lap race.
Longosiwa clocked 13:22.72 while Getaneh won in 13:21.88 to lead compatriot Leulsi to silver in13:22.13.
Clement Kemboi (3000m steeplechase-men), Margaret Chelimo (5000m- women), Alice Aprot (10000m-women), Grace Wanjiru (20km walk-women) and the women’s volleyball team were the other gold medallists in the 11th edition of the Pan African Games.
Kenya did not better their medal tally from the previous 2011 Games in Maputo, placing ninth on 22 medals, 6 gold, 9 silver and 7 bronze compared to the last edition’s 50 medals including 14 gold, 14 silver and 22 bronze ahead of the final events of the entire multi-discipline showpiece programme.